The Professor's Travel Blog

When to Use Award Miles Instead of Points

Tips for Making the Most of Award Miles

Author: The Traveling Professor/Monday, August 07, 2017/Categories: Save on Airfare

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Award miles and points?  What's the difference?  Which is better?  In general, award points are used to purchase air itineraries on a dollar-by-dollar basis.   For instance, 100,000 points may purchase $1,000 in airfare on a typical program.  Flights selection is generally unrestricted.  On a miles-based award program, 25,000 miles might purchase a R/T domestic flight.  However, an award miles programs, flight availability is often restricted to certain airlines and certain flights. Also, varying amounts of miles may be required to redeem awards for certain flights.

When is it better to redeem award miles over points?  Let's look at these examples:

Buy Expensive Tickets with Award Miles:  I was looking for an itinerary that included an open-jaw flight from JFK to Warsaw and from Venice back to JFK.  Because I was using OneWorld partners on this flight (American and Air Berlin) the itinerary I wanted was priced at $3,650.   That would have cost me quite a few points.  However, the itinerary required only 52,500 award miles.

Don't Buy Cheap Flights With Award Miles:   That's when you want to use points.

Use Award Miles When Booking One-Way International Flights on Different Carriers:   Let's say you need to get to Rome and Delta works best for you but coming back from Venice American Airlines offers better options.  Purchasing one-way international tickets can often be more expensive than purchasing R/T tickets.  So in this case, use award miles to purchase the outbound flight to Rome on Delta, and award miles to purchase the return on AA.   Some airlines, like Norwegian Air Shuttle offers great one-way fares to a destination.  However, they may not offer a flight on the day or from the city you want to return from.   In that case, buy the Norwegian fare with points or cash and get the return flight on a legacy carrier like American or Delta with miles.

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